If not evident through most of my Instagram posts and articles, I love to eat. (And drink.) But thanks to my chosen profession and background, I unfortunately can't just throw down mad money every time there's a new restaurant opening or I don't feel like cooking. (So, always.) All this makes me a tad obsessed with budgeting and saving money—so here: eight of my favorite easy, painless ways to be a foodie on the cheap.
1. Use a Restaurant Reservation App
Opentable.com lets you book your reservation and earn "dining points" while you're at it. After a certain number of points, you can redeem for a restaurant gift certificate or Amazon gift card. Easy. (Pssst...already on the way to dinner? Make a reservation—if available—through the app to get points on your already-made plans. Opentable, don't be mad at me for being smart.) And if you're already out and don't have solid plans for where you want to eat, open up the ScoutMob app, which lets you click a button and get a discount at places nearby. No joke.
2. Make Sure You Explore Your Company's Offerings
Many companies and employers offer discounts at local stores, museums, and—yes—restaurants. Your employer also might be a part of corporate rewards programs like Plum Benefits, which you can use to get restaurant gift certificates and the like at a solid discount.
3. Get It to Go
I know, I know—you went *out* to dinner/brunch/insert-meal-here for a reason, right? (Ambiance, or something...) But look—if you're really in it for the food and don't really care about all the rest, it's a
good great idea to get your meal to go for three main reasons: 1) You save on tipping 2) you can definitely save some leftovers for lunch 3) a $6 bottle of wine is not a thing they typically have in a restaurant but they do have in the real world. Any questions?
4. Watch the Drinks
Again, I get that booze is part of the *experience*, but paying $30 + tip on two cocktails with dinner ain't cute. To save money if you're wanting a drink with dinner, check to see if your state allows re-corkage, then buy that bottle of wine, have a glass, and ask it to be re-corked to take home. (Yes, you can really do this in some states.) Also, never underestimate the power of BYOB. Lastly, remember that you can—shocker—not drink at a meal out. Sometimes we become so conditioned to ordering a drink with our food that we forget to enjoy it, so skip the drink and focus on the food and company. (Then say cheers with a $2 beer at home.) Heads up: If you're really itching for a cocktail (and you like to have a happy hour or five during the month), check out the Hooch app. Available in cities like Austin, L.A., New York, Chicago, and more, for $10 a month you get one free drink every single day at different venues in the city. Meet up for a drink, head to dinner, and save some $$.
5. Sign Up for a Rewards Card
Credit cards are a slippery slope, so I will say if you have budgeting problems skip out on this one altogether. But if you *do* have a credit card and you love to eat out, make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck by grabbing a credit card that rewards you handsomely for your gluttonous tendencies. (Pssst—Chase Sapphire offers two times the points on dining, FWIW.)
6. Buy Discounted Gift Cards
If you are regulars at a chain restaurant and/or you like to plan your meals out in advance, check out discount gift card sites to save 10 to 30 percent before you even take your first bite. (Head to cardpool.com for the best deals.) Restaurant.com also offer great deals for restaurant vouchers at a solid discount.
7. Use Your Points to Buy Gift Cards
If you love to shop online, use a rewards site that'll save you some serious cash at restaurants by first going to the site, shopping, and earning points from your purchase. You can then use those points to buy gift cards. All it takes is one extra click. (We like MyPoints.com.)
8. If All Else Fails, Start an Instagram Account
Apparently, some foodies are so great with their Instagrams that restaurants are offering them free food and discounts. Ready, set, filter.
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